Even though it is becoming increasingly evident that outsourcing is the way to go for any small business owner who wants to expand and grow, it’s still difficult to pry those tight fingers away from the helm. It does seem to take a certain amount of education, after all, to convince the small business owner that other people can do many of those mundane tasks equally as well, freeing up time for creativity. Having said that, there seems to be even more reluctance when it comes to anything to do with the business’ financial records. Virtual assistants can be fantastic bookkeepers, helping to keep the accounting records in shape and ready for the end of the year. How can virtual assistants help with control of this sensitive yet time-consuming area?
As an assistant, you can keep up to date with the latest developments when it comes to accounting software and financial record keeping. You will invariably be able to advise your clients about the best financial accounting approach to take in their specific cases. Once an accounting platform has been chosen, the business owner will be kept up to date on a regular basis with the financial position of the company. Truth be told, business clients are not very good at record keeping and do not have easy access to a snapshot at any moment in time. Most keep their “records” in their head and only they know (or think they know) the true picture. Check out a few choices for financial tools in one of my recent blog posts, Finance Apps for Doing Business Online. I touch on a few small business financial tools aside from the widely known Quickbooks.
How many of your clients keep a stack of receipts in a cardboard box somewhere on a shelf? Due to having so many other things on their plate, this is a standard mode of operation for many. They’ll get to those later, right? Realistically, they’ll get to it about a month before taxes are due, or when they really need to know how much they actually spend on Uber rides. Yet, unless those business receipts are categorized, there is a good chance that with the passage of time, they will either become difficult to read due to fading ink or difficult to categorize due to fading memory. A better solution would be to immediately record the exact details of these receipts. What’s the best way to do this? There’s an app for that! Try one of these to get your clients’ receipts under control.
From the website: “Simply send Shoeboxed your receipts, business cards, bills and other documents and everything will be carefully sorted and scanned into a secure online account. All of the organized data, including an IRS-accepted image of each document, is then human-verified, categorized, accessible from anywhere and ready for export into dozens of powerful tools.”
From the website: “Concur® for Mobile complements our Web-based solution, allowing you to manage anything expense and or travel related, wherever you are. From booking and managing itineraries to capturing receipts and submitting expense reports, your smartphone can do it all with Concur.”
We all do it. In our personal lives and in business – we create a fancy pants budget at the beginning of the year (or every few months for some of us) and we say, “This time it’s going to be different! Organization, here I come!”
I’ve been there. Heck, I am one of the ‘every few months’ people when it comes to my personal spending. But, there are great tools and resources available now that make it easy to monitor accounts and business (or personal) spending. As your client’s virtual assistant, you can – and should – help to create monthly or even weekly financial summaries and help to ensure that cash flow issues are clearly identified well ahead of time. It’s also important to ensure that a monthly bank reconciliation is cleared, so that the business never runs into problems with adequate funding.
I know this can be one of those areas that are hard to let go of and delegate, but suggest starting in baby steps. You can start by setting up the accounts, linking everything together. Setting up categories and budgets based on what fits the company needs. Suggest that you can monitor just one segment, like travel expenses (air, hotel, transportation, food, etc) or the software budget. Make sure your client is staying within their allotted budget and give them a heads up when they are getting close (maybe within 15%) to their budget limits. You definitely want to make sure they are notified before it is too late though. Nothing worse than saying, “Oh yeah, you probably shouldn’t book that New York hotel because you are already $100 over your travel budget.” Ouch.
Need some tools to monitor budgeting? Some of the previously mentioned tools also have a way to track budgeting, but if you have no need for the other bells and whistles or you strictly want something for budget monitoring, here are some options. Check out Mint, BillGuard, HomeBudget, and YNAB (You Need A Budget). To be honest, there are a plethora of options, so just research and test until you find one that fulfills most of your needs.
Clients should always seek to generate and maintain a highly professional, two-way relationship with their assistant. This should never be a “hands-off” type of relationship and trust should be established very early on. This will enable the business owner to delegate financial record keeping matters to the VA with confidence. Show them you are capable, and they will release more control.
This post is part of a series. Check out the other posts for Ideas for Outsourcing.
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